Category Archives: Recovery and Life in General

Forgiveness, Church TV and Red Lights

I don’t normally watch church on television. Weekends find us usually watching whatever sports may be on.

We tend to watch more sports on tv  (image via)

We’ll even watch rugby. Those guys are tough! (image via)

Last weekend though as I was flipping around looking for soccer (futbal, if you prefer), I saw a local preacher talking and decided to watch for a minute. Like I said, I don’t normally watch church on tv, but this was a little different; the preacher on tv was female. And not only was she female, but she was an African-American female.

Big whoop, Christy, right? Where have you been? The 1950′s?

No, it’s not that. See, I live in a “small” town; it’s conservative, it’s stuffy, it’s the type of town kids can’t wait to leave. It’s not a young town–the majority of people who live here are old–and it’s definitely not progressive.

(I feel compelled to say that we only moved here to take care of my husband’s mother, who, yep, was old. It was the right thing to do at the time. Of course that took me away from my own mother who was not so old and who was dying of cancer. But that’s another topic for another day, maybe. Or maybe not, since there is nothing I can do about that now. And I really am trying to embrace this whole “Letting Go” thing I took on for my 40th birthday. I guess I felt compelled because I don’t want you to think I’m old or stuffy or conservative or stuck in a small town, though I may be two of those things now. But Let it Go already, Christy, move on . . . )

Okay, so anyway, I remember when the church announced it was hiring a female to come in to minister. “Oh my goodness! They’re doing what? Oh my, oh my, oh my!” You could hear the whispers all around town.

When news got out that the preacher was also black? That was just the cherry on top. Nobody really said too much about that, but you could feel it in their tone. “Did you hear about the new preacher they hired? Did you know she’s . . . fe-male?” With eyebrows raised and layers of emphasis on the “fe-”, as if you could lump everything that is non-white-male within the confines of raised eyebrows and two little letters.

But you know what? Everyone loves her. She’s young, vibrant, relevant, funny and straight-shooting. She’s even made me consider going to church because of how well she blends real-life lessons into religion. I feel like I could even overlook the whole God thing and instead consider it a self-help course.

The first time I saw her on tv was Christmas Eve. I decided to watch because I had heard the gossip and whispers when I went in town to “The Wal-Mart” and I was curious to hear what she had to say. (Okay, maybe I was curious how others were reacting to her.) Something happened as I watched though — I was glued to the tv. She was talking to my heart, and I couldn’t not listen.

or dog shows . . . (image via)

This little guy is glued to the tv too . . . (image via)

That night she was talking about “Letting Go.” Of anger, of resentment, of anything holding you back from living the life you want to live. But it’s not just letting go, she said, it’s embracing and doing the things you need to do (not the same as want to do) to get you to that life you want to live.

She shared a story of letting go of her own anger.

I had a lot of unresolved anger in my heart then, so I listened raptly as she talked about going to the shopping mall, joining the throngs of other last-minute shoppers, and circling (and circling and circling) the parking lot looking for a spot. When she finally found one, another car swooped in like a snake and stole it away from her. She shared how her heart filled with rage and her mouth filled with profanity and she wanted to get out and give THAT OTHER PERSON a piece of her mind.

Her anger grew and grew until she felt like a smoldering volcano. This anger made her think about all the other things that had made her angry, so not only was she upset at this other driver, she was now angry at her mom, her fifth grade teacher, her first husband, and the person who had 30 items in the “10 item or less lane” at “The Wal-Mart.”

Because anger loves to incite anger, her anger spoke to my anger. And there we were, two little angry volcanoes.

But she knew that she had to let this anger go. It wasn’t helping. Instead, it was making her miserable.

So she chilled out, did her shopping, and as she was leaving the mall, she saw a lady in the parking lot having car trouble. It was dark by then and she was late for an appointment. “I don’t have time for this tonight! I am late, late, late. I know someone else will help that woman,” she thought.

So she drove away. And at the red light leading out of the mall, she realized every other person was probably saying the same things to themselves. Even though she was late and even though she really didn’t want to, she turned around at the red light to go help.

She went on to talk about compassion and some of the hardships she had encountered in life, even some of the challenges she faced moving to this small town. Honestly, I don’t remember it all, but I remember how I felt. I remember thinking this lady gets it.

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
Dr. Maya Angelou

So the other day when I was looking for futbal and happened to see her on tv, I stopped flipping, and I watched.

This time she was talking about forgiveness. And again, it was like she was talking directly to me. See, I’ve been harboring a resentment and waiting for an apology from a friend for something that happened years ago. My friend offered to apologize, but she wanted to apologize on her terms. Screw your terms, I thought, I’m the one hurt, you should apologize just the way I asked. It made me angry (which in turn, opened up those anger flood gates, just like the preacher in the parking lot, and there I was again, a little angry volcano). Why can’t she just do what I want her to do?! Now she needs to apologize for this too!

Volcano via BBC

Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire?
The Indonesian volcano Anak Krakatau erupts at night (credit: Getty Images/Tom Pfeiffer/VolcanoDiscovery) via BBC Earth

But this preacher . . . she talked about forgiving others, get this, even if they don’t apologize. Not only that, but even if they’re not sorry. What?! Blasphemy! I don’t want to forgive, I want to be angry. I’m justified here. Yeah, so what? In the notorious words of Dr. Phil, “And how’s that workin’ for you?”

Then she held up a book and compared it to a little annoyance. She handed the book over to someone in the congregation, and said, “Hold this out at arm’s length. Don’t let go.”

Have you ever tried this? It starts out easy. It’s just a little book, it barely weighs anything. “Piece of cake, right?” she asked.

But after a while, that little book starts feeling like War and Peace. Soon your hand starts aching. And then your arm starts shaking. And then you start sweating, and pains start traveling to your back. Then your entire body starts trembling until you can’t stand it any more. You have to drop the book.

What starts out like a little tiny annoyance will build and build and poison every inch of your body . . . if you aren’t willing to let it go.

Like most, I’ve heard the quote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (It’s a biggie in recovery meetings.) But I don’t think the meaning really sunk in until I saw that poor little man holding out that book with his arm shaking, ego and stubborn-pride being the only things keeping it up. And for what? Why do we let ourselves suffer so much? The person we’re angry at isn’t suffering. They’re probably not even thinking about us!

You don’t forgive to let the other person off the hook. You forgive to let yourself off the hook. Drop the book already. Forgive, move on. Let. It. Go.

While forgiveness will always be a hot button for me, I can accept that some things are in the past. They can’t be changed. So I can either continue to let myself suffer as I hold up this book that is now the size of an entire Encyclopedia series, or I can drop the book and move on, for my own health and sanity.

Forgiveness. Acceptance. Letting go. Self-care. I can call it whatever I need to call it, I just need to do it. Maybe next time I’ll be smart enough to not pick up the book in the first place.

To close, let me tell you a quick story about me and my mom:

Mom and I were on vacation a couple of years before she got sick. We were relaxing in our hotel room flipping through the channels on tv. Guess what we land upon? Church. The preacher was screaming and jumping up and down, he was sweaty and red-faced, and we were absolutely mesmerized.

“Jesus is coming!” he shouted. “Are you ready?! What are you doing?! What are you doing right now? You’re at home, watching The TV! Jesus is coming but you’re gonna miss Him because you’re at home watching tv! When your friends ask you, “Hey did you see Jesus? He was just here.” you’re gonna have to say, “Nope, I was at home . . . watching The TV.”

It became one of those things Mom and I would laugh about, especially after she got sick.

I’d call her on the phone, “Hey Mom, whatcha doin’?”

“Not much, Christy, just watching tv.”

“Just watching tv?!  Jesus is coming back, and you’re going to miss Him, Mom, because you’re at home watching The TV!”

And then we would laugh and remember better days. Even now, typing this, I have to laugh. My god wouldn’t care if I was watching tv. My god could preempt any tv show he or she wanted in order to get a message to me.

And now I have to smile and shake my head, because I just realized maybe my god has been preempting shows getting messages to me:

  • Let go of anger.
  • Help others, even when you don’t want to.
  • Accept apologies, even those you don’t receive.
  • Drop the book.
  • If you’re flipping channels, don’t be afraid to watch a little church. Sometimes that’s how important messages get to you.

And, sometimes, you can change your life at a red light. (Jonny Lang as preacher? Now there’s a church I’d never miss.)

A chance to breathe
While sitting at a red light
You look around
reflecting on your life…

“Red Light” from Jonny Lang’s album Long Time Coming

How about you? Ever watch church on tv? How do you let go of anger? Still waiting for someone to apologize to you? Why/why not?

* A special thank you to Michelle (MamaMick) for inviting me to buzz around her newest personal writing blog The Hidden Hummingbird Diaries. I’ll be posting poetry and playing with new creative projects as my alter-ego Christina’s Words. Come say hi and check out my first two pieces “Words, Unread” and “The Secret: A Golden Shovel Poetry Challenge.”

For my 40th birthday, I’m gonna let it go …

Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it.
I’m about to forgive you

for everything.

-  from “A Settlement” by Mary Oliver

Does an individual “hoard” to retain memories, or to defer recalling them?”
Joyce Carol Oates

Original Landscape Art Tree Painting ... Letting Go. Amy Giacomelli. Via FineArtAmerica.

Original Landscape Art Tree Painting … Letting Go. Amy Giacomelli. Via FineArtAmerica.


I’ve been carrying a lot of shit for a lot of years.

Like a backpack on my back, each year the weight getting heavier and heavier. Some people hoard magazines or glass menageries. I hoard emotions. Grief, especially, and anger too if I’m being honest. I usually don’t think too much about it. Like most hoarders, I stick my items in a corner and then I forget about them. I use them occasionally for motivation. I use them as fuel and kindling. I use them to punish myself (and others). I use them self-servingly.

I’m done. I’m tired.

I’m not so naive to say that I will never grieve again. That I will never get angry again. That I will never remember a past insult or injury directed at me. That’s like a magazine hoarder saying they will never buy another People Magazine again. Instead what I will try to do is just bloody feel what I need to feel, then I’ll set the emotion down, and then I’ll move on.

I’m gonna let it go.

We spend the bulk of our lives gathering, accumulating, acquiring … things, memories, emotions. Just stuff really. There’s no bravery in hoarding though, in holding on. We hold on because we’re scared to let go.

Bravery is all in the letting go.

Letting go doesn’t always mean “forgiving your dark past” though. Sometimes it means you accept that something happened and that you can’t change it, even if you wanted. Accepting isn’t condoning, isn’t excusing. It’s simply saying, “I’m tired of holding on. It no longer matters. I’m going to set you down now, and I’m going to move on.”

On this milestone birthday, as I have 40 years behind me, and hopefully 40 more ahead, instead of giving myself the gift of more stuff, I give myself the gift of freedom.

I give myself permission to let go.


“It’s not the weight you carry
But how you carry it-
Books, bricks, grief-
It’s all in the way
You embrace it, balance it, carry it
When you cannot, and would not,
Put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?
~ “Heavy,” Mary Oliver, Thirst


So What

So I stayed in a toxic friendship for too long. So what. So I accepted insults and anger and emotional abuse because I thought I deserved it. So what. So I felt like a bad friend every time I tried to walk away and let myself get guilted into returning for more abuse. So what. So I hung on to every insult and every slight and every cruel text so that I could hurl them back like grenades. So what. So I plotted revenge, acts of my own cruelty. So what. So I felt justified in my hurt. So what. So I tried to take the high road and be the better person. So I failed. So what. So I break into a cold sweat and feel the initial waves of a panic attack, of fight or flight, creep in when I see a reminder of you. So what. So you win. So what. So you broke me, so I have trust issues, so I will never believe you again. So what. So you still don’t get it. So you still think everything is about you. So I can’t change a damn thing. So what. So you’ll figure out a way to make this my fault. So you’ll hate me and play the victim and tell all your friends how I broke your heart. So you’ll use me as an excuse to hate yourself. So what. So you’ll talk about me to your shrink. So what. So you’ll drink again. So what. So you have your mom to pick you back up. So what. So my mom is dead. So what. So I’m jealous of you and your mom. So you know it, and you use it, just like you use all my weaknesses. So what. So my mom is dead and nothing will bring her back. So my mom is dead. So my mom is dead. So my mom is dead. So what. So one day you will understand when your mom dies. So what. So when she does you’ll look to me as I looked to you. So I won’t be there, just like you weren’t there for me. So what. So somethings I’ll never forgive. So what. So fuck you. So what. So I’m moving on. . . . So what. . . . So I’ll just say fare thee well. . . . So I lied. So what.


Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.
~ “The Uses of Sorrow,” Mary Oliver, Thirst


Sitting Across From You

Sitting across from you at the breakfast table
a broken man.
A ghost of the man I fell in love with.
Broken. Beaten down. Given up.
I did that.

Pushing the scrambled eggs around on my plate.
Headache pounding.
Sipping a Sprite.

“I don’t care anymore.
I’m done fighting you on this.
Done trying.”

(My stomach flip-flops as I try to swallow a piece of bacon.)

“I’m so sorry.”
I say, meaning the words this time.
More than usual.

Your eyes.
You look like you are going to cry.
“I know.”

The look my mom had during my last trip to visit her.
The last trip I would ever see my mom alive.
“Can you really not stand to see me this way? Are you that scared, Christy? Do I make you want to drink that badly?”
The hospice worker—Grace—saying that maybe it had to happen this way.
Maybe you had to see how bad, how deep she is; maybe it’s the only way you would know.

The last phone call.
“I just wanted you to know I’m not mad. I love you.”

Two days later,
“You need to come home,”
says my dad,
“please don’t drink on the plane.”

I tried to get there in time.
Accident. Grid-lock.
Thirty minutes stuck on freeway
Out of my control.
Now I understand road rage.
I’m going insane.
Hold on, Mom, hold on.
Finally pass the scene. Bad.
Metal on metal.
Someone has died.
You can’t take her too, you Bastard.
Don’t you dare.

I sped so fast. Daring the police to pull me over.
Never arrested drunk. (Yet.) Oh the irony if it happens sober.
I speed faster.
Trying to make up time.

Dad on the porch when I pull up.
Why the hell is he on the porch?
I know.

“Do I make you want to drink that badly, Christy?”

Is that why you left, Mom?
Is that why you couldn’t hold on fifteen more minutes?

I traveled all fucking day.
I wanted to see you one last time.
I wanted to hold your hand.
I wanted to be there when you left.
I wanted to be there when you needed me.
(I, I, I, I, I, I, I, fucking selfish, I.)

Why did you leave?
Did you not think I could handle it?
Is that why you died fifteen minutes before I made it home?
Is that why God caused the wreck? Took another life?
To prevent me from getting drunk?

I was mad.
So much anger.
You. God. Dad. Husband. Friend.
You all think you knew what was best for me.

Maybe you were right.

I wish you could see me today.
Can you?

I just wanted to say I’m not mad. I love you.




“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” 
~ Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon


How do you comment on something like this, huh? It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m just tired of holding on to old emotions. I have nothing against feelings; I love feelings. As a writer and poet, emotions serve me very well. But holding on to old emotions prevents me from fully feeling and embracing new emotions.

In a way, this is bringing my Grace post full-circle. I was broken and grieving and full of shame when I wrote Grace, but writing it allowed me to heal. It allowed me to get strong enough to face the even deeper pain, which was loss of grace … which was anger … which was guilt over feeling angry … which was allowing myself to be emotionally abused … because I thought that’s what I deserved.

But like “my mom” wrote to me on my 3 year sober anniversary: “You never lost your grace. You are grace.”

Full healing can only come when you’re ready to let go of the past. And today, I’m ready. I don’t forgive all of it. But I accept that it happened. I accept that I can’t change it. I accept that it’s over.

So I’m gonna let it go.

In fact, I’m truly letting go. As soon as I schedule this post, I’m going to unplug for a while and enjoy some vacation time. Maybe I’ll even go flying. My thanks to Jennie and Michelle, who have offered to water the plants around here and check the mail while I’m away. See you all soon. Have some cake for me for my birthday! ~ Christy

What’s the best present you’ve ever given yourself? Ever held on to anything too long? Have you ever been parasailing or hang gliding? Would you? What’s your favorite kind of cake?


I’ve been caught sideways out here on the crossroads
Trying to buy back the pieces I lost of my soul
It’s hard when the devil won’t get off your back
It’s like carrying around the past in a hundred pound sack
. . .
Today I’m gonna stand out in the rain
Let it wash it all away Yeah wash it all away
I’m gonna let it go”

“Let it Go” by Tim McGraw, Let it Go

Dear Christy, Happy 3 Years of Sobriety

Dear Christy,

Happy 3 years of sobriety! I know how you’re still unsure how to feel when someone says “congratulations” on your sobriety. But since you “celebrated / accomplished / white-knuckled / ate sugar pretty much non-stop / made it” three years without a drop of alcohol, I wanted to write and let you know how proud I am of you.

We’ve been friends a long time. In fact, I’ve known you longer than anyone. So can I just say a couple of things without you getting upset?

I’m so happy that you quit drinking. So so so SO happy.

I know it hasn’t always been easy. I know there are some days you wish you could have a few sips, just to take the edge off, to calm down a little. But I’m not sure drinking ever did calm you down though; you’re much calmer now that you don’t drink, have you noticed?

And you don’t get your feelings hurt so easily now either. I have always loved you, but girl, you were one hell of a sensitive drama-queen back then, even though I know you will vehemently deny that. You loved to stir the pot, to tap the monkey glass, to play the victim. It’s like you weren’t happy if you were not in the eye of a hurricane. Like you needed the distraction and drama around you so that you didn’t have to look at your own life. You don’t do that so much anymore, and I appreciate that. You are enough. You don’t need to hide in others’ drama.

I love that I feel like I can trust you more now. That’s a big deal to me, and I know it is to you too. See, I used to worry about you. When you went out to the store especially, because I never knew if you would come home with a bottle of wine or vodka hidden in your purse. And I never really knew who was talking — you or the alcohol — because you used to say some really hurtful things. And I never knew if you were telling the truth when you said that you were “fine.” You think I didn’t see the self-inflicted bruises? The bite marks? You were in so much pain, just looking for any way to make it stop. It made me so sad. I know, I know. I’m not saying any of this to hurt you, Christy. Rather I’m saying this because I see how far you’ve come from who and where you were.

Some things haven’t changed entirely; I know you still get anxious about stuff, like crowds and last-minute changes and cancer. I know you still feel guilty sometimes putting your sobriety first. I know you’re sad that you’ve had to let some people from your past go, but they kept you small, Christy. They kept you small because your growth scared them, so they tried to keep you in the past however they could. But you are learning to let go. Like poet David Whyte wrote:

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

I know you miss your mom and your dog and your family terribly. I know you miss your home state; I know you’re lonely where you are. I know people say shitty things on-line sometimes about alcoholics or make careless jokes, and that others jump to conclusions about you–or even ignore you all together–without trying to get to know you, and that some are jealous of you and how good life seems to be for you. Sometimes it’s hard to face these things without wanting to drink. But seriously, Christy? I am so proud of you.

Like I said, I have always loved you. But for a while there, I’m not sure I really liked you. You weren’t very likable for a while, I know you know what I mean. But now? I like you. A lot. I admire you. I think you are awesome, and brave, and dedicated, and strong. I think you are perfect. I am so proud of you. And if you ever need to be reminded, just ask me. I will always remind you.

And, oh, that smile. How I missed your smile. You radiate when you smile, just like sunshine. You’ve been in the clouds for far too long, Christy, come out. You were born to shine.

Happy 3 Years.




Wish you were here, wish you could see this place Wish you were near, I wish I could touch your face The weather's nice, it's paradise It's summertime all year and there's some folks we know They say, "Hello", I miss you so, wish you were here ...

“Wish you were here, wish you could see this place
Wish you were near, I wish I could touch your face”
– “Wish You Were Here” by Mark Wills (video)


Dear Christy,

Did you get my letter? I wrote it to you yesterday on your 3 year sobriety anniversary. I had to sign it with your name, but I think you knew who it was really from.

You wonder so often if I can see you. If I am proud of you.

Child. Sweet child of mine. I never left you. I didn’t go anywhere. I am not gone.

Look in the mirror, Christy.

Look at your face, your hands, your hair, your teeth, your nose, your chicken pox scar, look inside and out. Don’t you see? You are me. I am in you. I gave life to you; my life is in you. Don’t you ever ever feel that I have left you. I am by your side always, forever and ever. You are my living legacy. You never lost your grace; your grace is not gone. You are grace. You are MY grace.

And I am so proud of you, every second of every day. I could never be anything but proud. You know that, you feel that. I know, because I am you.

Never doubt. Believe always.

I know you read Einstein and Emily, about the little dog? It was the last book I read. Read it again for me. Pay extra attention to the story.

Tomorrow you will wake up and read this.
You will wonder, “did I write this in the mid of night? Or did she?”
It will be your choice to believe or not to believe.
I am you. I already know your answer.

Remember, I love you and I am so proud of you. You are my perfect, sweet child. You are mine. I am with you always.



PS- Spot sends her love. What a sweet girl she is. She misses you so much, but has fun playing with us all. She says Jimi Hendrix smells like cinnamon gum. She says she loves you. She says she sends you chickens all the time like you asked; she asks if you believe? She says you will understand.

chicken believe spot

One of my daily chickens. This one from, of all places, a butter commercial. Truly, I can’t make this stuff up.


I believe in the spirit of Rock N Roll
In the eternal strength of the immortal soul
Cause sometimes everybody’s gotta let it go
I believe in the power of love

“I Believe” by Cowboy Mouth


 * A HUGE thank-you to Hippie Cahier for deeming May 6 as “Phenomenal Woman Day” and for including me, alongside her daughter, in her very Very touching post “Phenomenal Woman Day.”

* Thanks to Jennie for letting me play on her blog last week. Come check out my 300 word “Flash Fiction” piece, “We’s All Got Our Breaking Points, Child,” about a shotgun-toting, oatmeal-despising grandma. I think she has a few more stories to tell us, so let me know if you like her!

* More thanks to Jennie for the sweetest post and song dedication yesterday in honor of my 3 years. I love you, Coach Diddy!

* I’m not the only one with a May 6 sobriety date. Congrats to Laurie for 2 years of sobriety yesterday. And huge congrats to Paul who celebrated his 3 years of sobriety on Sunday, May 4, by running his first half-marathon (in the very badass time of 2:15, what?! I’m kicking you out of the turtle club! j/k)

* And it goes without saying … thank you to each and every one of you, my friends and readers, for supporting and encouraging me over the last year. It’s been a hell of a ride, that’s for sure. I’m grateful for my sobriety, I’m grateful for this network, and I’m grateful for you. Thank you. Here, have some Fritos. ;)

* So what are you all having for dinner tonight to celebrate my three years of sobriety (and Paul’s and Laurie’s anniversaries too)? How about TWIX and Reese’s Cups and Bacon Pizza and CAKE?! It’s okay to “stretch the truth” — What’s on the celebration menu? …  Who else is celebrating sobriety (of any length)? How long do you have? Or if you love someone who is sober/clean, how long does your loved one have? 


One Year After the Boston Marathon Bombing

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the past year, we have seen courage, resilience, and acts of compassion that far outweigh the heinous horrid acts committed that day.

Next Monday, the 118th Boston Marathon will take place. Many of the spectators, volunteers and runners who were injured will be watching. Many of them will even be running, some on new prosthetic legs, including Heather Abbot.

Today, in memory, I repost my piece “As a Runner I Will Run (Thoughts on Boston).”

It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run; I haven’t run since I said goodbye to Spot. But today seems like a good day to start back. No, scratch that. Today is the perfect day to start back.

So today, and tomorrow, and next Monday, and the next . . . I will run.

As a runner, as a volunteer, as a spectator, as a human being, I will run.

I’ll be Running — you guessed it — on Sober.


I had to do some soul-searching before deciding this – I didn’t want to take the spotlight away from Deanna or Josie who shared their “Life in Six Songs” yesterday. But they are both survivors–Josie is even in training for a 5k–I have a feeling they’d understand. But please do visit their post and then visit their blogs; they are phenomenal ladies.


As a Runner, I Will Run (Thoughts on Boston)

originally posted April 16, 2013

As a runner, I am devastated.

Of course, simply being human makes me sad–my eyes take in images from the news, my ears hear over and over again the sounds of explosions and people screaming–of course, we are all sad. But this. As a runner, I feel this in my gut, and there is a mournful, wailing, angry force that pulls and constricts and tortures my insides. “This could have been you,” it taunts again and again in my ear, “this could have been you.”

And in a way, it was me.

As a runner, I have been there.

As a marathon runner, I have seen the crowds that gather to cheer and support running loved ones. I have high-fived eight-year old boys gathered along the side-lines. I have smiled gratefully at their moms standing behind them– “thank you!” I try to squeak out after miles and miles of exertion have stolen my voice. I have taken cups of water from volunteers lining the roads. I have given thumbs-ups to medical staff as I trotted by their tents. I have found inspiration from law enforcement working the races–even comparing them to song characters afterward.

I have smiled at race photographers, hoping for that one decent race picture. I have “oohed” and “awwwed” and petted dogs belonging to race spectators. I have gratefully read every home-made sign intended to urge us runners along–even those “You’re almost there!” when we’ve still got ten miles to go. I have smiled and taken a banana from a four-year old girl with the softest looking curls of golden hair I have ever seen–and I don’t even like bananas. I have savored the final stretch of a long race, eyeing the finish line, then scanning the crowds for friends and loved ones, before calling up all of my remaining energy to simply cross the finish.

I have been there.

Getting ready to cross the finish line of my first half. That's me in the blue shorts. My dad took this photo.

Getting ready to cross the finish line of my first half. That’s me in the blue shorts. My dad took this photo.

At my very first half-marathon in Virginia, my dad wedged himself into a prime viewing spot at the finish line. He stood upon soundstage boxes, probably climbing over trash cans and barricades just to cheer me on. It was a big event, there were thousands of runners. I wasn’t among the first finishers, not even close. I was slow. He was at the finish for a long time waiting for me and cheering on the others. He would have been at the finish line at Boston too. He would have been waiting for me, probably for a long time. My mom, sick with cancer, was at home getting updates from my dad on the phone; she would have been at Boston though.

I am the Boston runner who mourns her father and her mother.

My husband was there during my first marathon. In fact, he was at each mile waiting for me during the last six-mile stretch; driving on ahead of me to meet me with a water bottle that I was too tired to carry. He would have been at Boston waiting for me too. I would have found him on the sidelines and hugged him before going on to finish.

I am the Boston runner who mourns her spouse and children.

True, I wasn’t at Boston, so I can only imagine the pain the runners of Boston are feeling. I can only imagine the “what ifs”:

What if I had run faster? What if I hadn’t stopped to used the bathroom? What if I didn’t have to keep stopping to tie my shoelaces? What if I hadn’t had cramps? What if I hadn’t walked, and then walked some more? What if I hadn’t deferred from the heat last year? What if I told them to wait at the hotel for me instead? What if my flight had been cancelled? What if the weather had been a little bit cooler, a little bit warmer?

What if I had seen something? What if I had said something?

What if I hadn’t run fast enough to qualify? What if I had listened to my doctors and not run on this bad ankle? What if I hadn’t stopped to pet that dog? What if I had? What if I hadn’t said “I love you.”? What if I had never decided to run Boston? What if I was just a slow, thirty-something, recreational runner with no shot of ever being fast enough to qualify for Boston, sitting at her dining room table wondering “what if I had been there?”

What if I had been there?

So many questions and so much sadness, so much anger at a senseless horrendous crime.

As a runner, I know those that ran Boston will never run another race again with the same innocence and excitement. Running has been altered forever in their lives. Some will stop running. Most will not.

Most runners will continue to run, because that is what we do. When we are faced with pain and confusion and questions and heartache and loss and anger, we run. Running is how we survive, running is how we cope.

As a runner, I am devastated.

As a runner, I will run.

Today, as a runner, I will run for Boston.

And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, I will run. I will run for those that cannot. I will run for every volunteer, every spectator, every family member, every friend, every young child, and every dog that has ever lined a finish area. I will run with renewed gratitude for as long as I am fortunate enough to do so.

As a runner, I will not cower in the face of terrorism.

I will move forward, and I will run.

In The Spaces In Between

I revisit my free-writes today, as a few of you seemed to enjoy my last one, “Leaves.” Today I share a piece on endings, or sometimes the lack of, and on the choices that end up creating our own stories. I decided on this one (versus a much odder, darker one, which I promise to share next week Mish), because in Michelle’s most recent Braveheart Chronicles post, “Who Were You Before You Became You?” I commented to her:

Everything has made us who we are. Pages and chapters in our books … But we can write our future pages anyway we choose.

Additionally, congrats to Michelle who had her first Braveheart piece, “Courageous vs. Brave,” featured on My Empowered We’re all very proud of you and your courage, Michelle, way to go!

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and condolences on the loss of my little girl, Spot. It’s been a tough few weeks, but thank goodness for good friends and good music. (The “Life in 6 Songs” series has been a wonderful lift-me-up. — quick note, everyone that has indicated interest will be emailed by me, Michelle or Jennie no later than Monday. I’ll share another 6 Songs update on Monday’s post.)


In The Spaces In Between

We are not the sum of our final pages. Our stories are not told in our final chapters.

Image by Alegri (via) Used with CC permission.

Image by Alegri (via). Used with CC 3.0 permission.

I saw the movie Ain’t Them Bodies Saints yesterday. (Spoiler alert.) After watching, my husband said, “It was strange. Not a bad strange, just strange.”

I agreed, though I was captivated by the story. An outlaw, free and wild, is forced to change after her partner is locked up. She decides to wait for him and raises their daughter on her own. She becomes tranquil—her hair longer, her arms doting ever on a child. She is a mere shadow of the woman she once was.

In one scene, boys with a BB gun shoot at her house. She runs out, but instead of going ballistic, she says, “Gimme that,” to the boy with the gun.

She raises it. Aims. And shoots at something in the distance.

She smiles. It’s the most genuine smile we see on her face since her partner went away.

For a moment, just for a moment, she is wild and free again.

A gentle man comes to love her—a cop—and says to her, “It doesn’t matter what you did in your past. I look at you with your daughter, and all I see is good.”

Which direction will her life go? Toward the past—to wild, to free, to passion? Or forward—a continuation of her present—to good, to tranquil, to family?

She never gets to make that decision. Circumstance and the gods make it for her when they kill her partner. She can never go back to her past.

But, her future is wide open. Does she choose revenge? Does she kill herself to join her partner? Does she run away from it all to escape her past and her present? Or does she choose “good” and hope for a tranquil life of love and do-gooding, of guitars and horses and cops?

We will never know. Because this story just ended.

Some endings are tidy. They sum up everything and wrap a pretty bow around the words as a gift to those reading or observing. But most endings just are. Endings that is. We often never see them coming. There was so much left to say, to be told, to be explained.

And some endings just plain suck. They’re awful. They’re a let down. They leave you wondering why you invested a portion of your life in them, or mad that you couldn’t invest more. Your favorite character dies—worse, your favorite character is killed off. You don’t get to say good-bye.

We focus so much on that ending. On that horrible ending. On that let-down. On the questions. We forget the simple beauty of the story itself. The sun glistening in the hair, the laughter, the dances, the letters full of yearning, the declarations of undying love. We forget the details—the moments in between—and, yet, that’s where life is lived.

“It didn’t have a beginning or an ending,” my husband later realized. “It just picked-up, and it just dropped-off.”

It was a snapshot. It captured the spaces—the moments—in between.

Perhaps we focus too hard on beginnings, on endings. After all, they’re just pick-ups and drop-offs.

The good stuff—life—is lived in the spaces in between.




Do you like open endings? Do you prefer them tied up neat and tidy for you? If you could call up an author and talk about a book, who would you call? What book would you discuss? 

* Quick edit to add: I have not seen The Walking Dead finale. I’m sure someone dies in it, but I don’t want to know. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t mention it in the comments. If you do, I’ve asked Jennie to move your comment to pending status. ;)